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The workers’ advocacy group American Rights at Work honored three advocates for workers’ rights June 24 at its Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards Celebration in Washington, D.C. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and Gamesa Technology Corp. received the award named for the former first lady and human rights champion.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who introduced Sebelius, praised her as a "passionate, authentic leader, a true friend of working families." "Every day, she shows that a progressive leader can act on principle and commitment—and bring people together in a way that cuts across red states or partisan divides. And she has a record of achievement on our behalf."

Sebelius, who supports the Employee Free Choice Act, last year signed an executive order granting collective bargaining rights to more than 7,000 home child care providers. She’s also worked closely with the Kansas Association of Public Employees, an affiliate of AFT, to improve public schools in Kansas. In 2006, Sebelius vetoed legislation that would have made it easier for companies to lay off injured workers.

The LCCR was honored for its work in helping to expose FedEx’s unfair treatment of workers. Along with American Rights at Work, the Leadership Conference issued a report, Fed Up with FedEx: How FedEx Ground Tramples Workers’ Rights and Civil Rights. The report documents how the $33 billion delivery giant is circumventing federal anti-discrimination laws, avoiding payment of millions of dollars in benefits to 15,000 FedEx Ground drivers and hindering workers’ freedom to form unions.

LCCR President Wade Henderson says: "Many Americans have forgotten or take for granted the protections that labor laws and unions provide, thinking that they can leave their well-being to a corporation. But the examples in this report show that labor protections are just as important today as they were at the turn of the century."

Gamesa Technology of Pennsylvania was honored for building a strong relationship with its workers. Gamesa management agreed to remain neutral in its employees’ effort to form a union in 2006. Gamesa negotiated its first contract with the United Steelworkers in 2007. At the same time, the company is setting an example of cooperation with the state and unions to create green jobs that build the economy and help the environment. The company has invested $175 million in the state and now employs roughly 1,200 workers. Its two Pennsylvania facilities produce enough wind turbines to power up to 270,000 households across the United States each year. At the contract signing last year, USW President Leo Gerard said: "This agreement is a great example of how we can have good jobs and a clean environment support and innovative leadership on behalf of working men and women."

Each year, the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards honors those who, like Eleanor Roosevelt, use their influence and talent to support workers’ rights and economic justice. Last year’s honorees included TV judge Greg Mathis, Kaiser Permanente and Human Rights Watch.


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